Love chips but hate the number of calories in a portion? Air fryers – sometimes called health fryers – sit on your kitchen worktop, plug into the mains and cook using hot air.
This means that you can cook most food without any oil (though chips need a splash to ensure they crisp up). They are a healthier option than deep-fat fryers, or even homemade chips cooked in oil in the oven. They have a removable pan and usually a separate basket too, which you put your food in.
But if you just think of an air fryer as a healthy alternative to a deep-fat fryer, you won’t be getting the most out of it. An air fryer is effectively a mini oven and you can cook all sorts of different dishes in it, from popcorn chicken to cauliflower ‘wings’.
Some come with air fryer recipes for full meals including burgers and curry. They’re smaller than an oven, they’re portable and usually quicker, saving fuel costs.
We cooked homemade chips in all the machines we tested. They trumped oven chips, as they were fresher and had much more flavour, and also easier than handmade chips because you don’t need to open the oven, turn them with a spatula and scrape burnt bits off the dish when washing up. You just pull out the basket, give your chips a shake, slot it back in and it will continue.
Read on to discover which air fryers are best. For more, visit our reviews section and discover over 400 practical buyer’s guides offering unbiased advice on what equipment is worth investing in. Find everything from counter-top appliances like best food processors and best toasters, through to larger white goods like the best microwaves and best dishwashers.
The best air fryers to buy in 2021
Sage the Smart Oven™air fryer
Best multi-tasking air fryer
Think of this smart little stainless steel appliance as a new permanent fixture in the kitchen, and watch as you start using it in place of your main oven more and more.
It would be a lifesaver for Christmas and parties, a winner for small kitchens, or a good option for Aga and range cooker owners who don’t want to ‘fire up the beast’ for the sake of a chicken kiev.
Offering pre-sets and functions that can tackle anything from a crumpet or chips to slow-cooked casseroles, it’s so much more than an air fryer.
Sage uses technology that combines a supercharged convection heater with air frying to really crisp things up. This reaches one of the hottest settings of any of the models we look at here, with a top temperature of 230 degrees, making for chip perfection.
As with the full Sage range, a premium price delivers a top-notch product, and the stainless steel finish, nicely-weighted door and inner trays make this a quality piece that’s worth the money. Read our full review of the Sage Smart Oven air fryer.
Tower Vortex 2000W 11l 5-in-1 digital air fryer oven
Best air fryer for roasting chicken
An oven-style air fryer, you can stack three separate trays of food to air fry.
Chips, pizza and wedges worked out well in this model, with a good even finish and no cool spots. As with a conventional oven, the highest shelf was hottest, so we did do a bit of moving around as things cooked, but it was easy to check on their progress thanks to the large viewing window and interior light.
Our favourite function was the rotisserie, which turned a small chicken into a beautifully juicy and crisp centrepiece for a summer salad in around 50 minutes.
There may have been straws drawn to decide who would clean it afterwards, but we would definitely use it again, perhaps adding some foil to the bottom pan for easier clean-up. Read our full review of the Tower Vortex 2000W 11l 5-in-1 digital air fryer oven.
Philips Avance air fryer XXL
- Available from: Amazon (£300)
Best air fryer for families
The Philips family of air fryers have long been favourites in the UK market – and if you’re after a machine for straightforward frying, this is hard to beat.
It has a huge basket – in fact, a small chicken will fit in there and cook beautifully, even with the juices draining away into the bottom of the pan.
It’s definitely the pick of the bunch if you want power, speed and enough room to get a family dinner on the table quickly.
The controls are intuitive, with a digital dial adjusting temperature and timings, and a range of pre-sets that make it easy to use.
Since this is a basket drawer-style fryer, it’s wise to check the contents during the cook and move things around with tongs to ensure it cooks evenly.
Quiet, powerful and easy to use, this was one of our top air fryer choices. Read our full review of the Philips Avance air fryer XXL.
Available from: Amazon (£300)
VonShef 1.5l air fryer
- Available from: Wayfair (£36.54)
Best air fryer for one
This smaller fryer is handy to have in the cupboard if you need to rustle up a main course for one or fries for two.
Sometimes, solo cooks don’t feel justified baking or frying in a main oven – why go to the bother for just a few fish fingers or roasted vegetables? This is an easy alternative that does the job efficiently, albeit without fancy pre-sets, touch controls or a pause function.
The small, non-stick basket is easy to clean afterwards and light enough to be a good choice for those with mobility issues – we can imagine this would be a great asset to the kitchen for older family members who don’t want to wrestle with oven trays and heavy doors. Read our full review of the VonShef 1.5l air fryer.
Tefal ActiFry Genius XL 2-in-1 air fryer
Best air fryer for versatility
The distinctive dome of the Tefal ActiFry has evolved into this multi-level cooker, which can be programmed to remind you when to add different menu components.
Other fryers have baskets that allow the fat to drain away – not this one. Any oil will collect on the doughnut-shaped tray at the bottom, with a central paddle that turns, to ensure food is slowly coated in the oil.
You can get amazingly good results with very little oil, so it’s still far healthier than deep frying or even baking on a sheet in the oven, where more fat is needed to cover the surface.
Another container for the likes of meat or fragile fish fillets can then be added over the central stalk, to double up cooking space. And you can see it all through a giant window so don’t have to lose heat by opening the lid to check on progress.
Although it took a bit of exploration with the manual, the pre-sets and settings are easy to use when you get the hang of the touch controls. Read our full review of the Tefal Genius ActiFry 2-in-1 air fryer.
Wilko 4l air fryer with removable basket
Best budget air fryer
An absolute bargain, this has the power, capacity and looks of models twice the price. If you’re contemplating whether you really need an air fryer, this Wilko offering could be the way to test the waters.
It’s not the most basic air fryer we saw, as it comes with an extra roasting rack and basket, and features a light to signal the desired internal temperature has been reached – this usually took about 2-3 minutes.
Everything we cooked in this model was a success, and our homemade fries were as good in 25 minutes as those cooked (albeit slightly more quickly) in models more than three times the price.
There are no fancy settings, recipe booklets or cooking modes, but if you want straightforward meals in a flash, this could be a great choice. Read our full review of the Wilko 4l air fryer.
DeLonghi IdealFry low oil fryer and multicooker
- Available from: Amazon (£159)
Best air fryer for extra oven space
This DeLonghi oven is adaptable – it can be used for things you’d never expect to be able to cook in an air fryer.
Turn up the heat just as you would in a full-sized oven and you’ll discover that dishes such as traybakes, roasted veg, baked potatoes – even cakes and scones – cook to perfection. It’s a heavy machine though, so bear that in mind if you want to store it between bakes.
We liked the look of it too, with an unusual, pyramid style shape and a large viewing window that helped us stop the cook time if things were looking ready before their recommended minutes were up. In all, these timings were accurate though, and we didn’t have anything overcooked or burnt.
The accompanying recipe book app had plenty of ideas of what to cook next, so this is a good choice if you fancy getting more creative than chips and nuggets. Read our full review of the DeLonghi IdealFry low oil fryer and multicooker.
Ninja air fryer AF100UK
Best air fryer for making chips
The Ninja looks good on the worktop with its two-tone style – and the good looks matched its performance, with this being an air fryer that can reach 240 degrees for a super-crisp finish on any given dish.
This model can also dehydrate herbs and fruit, and even make beef jerky if you’re feeling adventurous.
Powerful and quiet, this produced some of the best chips in our testing, thanks to the vented basket in the base which seemed to allow more chips to crisp up.
We did, as usual, do a bit of shaking and rearranging to ensure even cooking, but annoyingly the digital timer continued to count down. Other models pause automatically, which helps if you want to be exact with timings.
Tthis is a great air fryer, though, and as with every machine here, you’ll soon get to know its perfect timings – and they’re often not what the booklet tells you. Read our full review of the Ninja air fryer AF100UK.
Salter EK2819 XL digital hot air fryer
Best air fryer for quietness
We liked the chunky looks and touch controls of this Salter model, which comes with a full range of pre-settings and a useful safety cut-off function.
The glossy casing shows marks easily, and the slanted top, with the touch controls, need wiping down often, but the inner basket itself was very easy to keep clean, with food and residue wiping away easily from its non-stick coating.
What we didn’t like was the beeping sounds it made when we were setting the timings, but the actual cooking was impressively quiet, with noise levels comparative to a cooling fan on a low setting. Read our full review of the Salter EK2819 digital hot air fryer.
Why buy an air fryer?
In a word: convenience. Like any kitchen gadget, you want something that’s going to make life simpler, and there’s no doubt that frying and baking conventionally can be messy, smelly or even dangerous.
Using an air fryer to bake, roast and fry will speed up the process, could potentially cut calories and save money as you won’t have to use a larger oven for smaller portions and side dishes.
Think of air fryers as mini ovens that can tackle almost anything you’d put in a conventional oven or deep fat fryer. They’re not just for chips – you can bake, roast, and even dehydrate ingredients, too.
Is air frying healthy?
In comparison to deep-fat frying, air frying is a healthier alternative, since using convection cooking rather than oil means less fat in the finished food, which in turn means fewer calories. However, air frying does have some negatives, so it should be considered as part of a balanced diet. Read more about the health credentials of air fryers in our guide – is air frying healthy?
Which air fryer should I buy?
The air fryers we looked at fell into three main types.
Firstly, the taller fryers such as the Philips and Ninja feature a main unit with heating elements and fans. These had slide-out baskets or trays that slotted into place inside. Because they tend to have a smaller cooking area than oven-style fryers, even results were more likely if the cooking was paused occasionally to rearrange or toss the food around. Some will cut out automatically when you do this, some will need to be paused if you want accurate timings.
Secondly, there were ‘mini oven’ types, such as Sage and Tower, using convection or fan technology to cook food on flat, slide-in trays.
As well as roasting, their extra air frying functions circulate hot air around the food for more efficient crisping. These took up the space of an average-sized microwave.
Thirdly, the Tefal model we looked at has an interior paddle; its stirring motion keeping the food moving around a doughnut shaped tray. Unlike ‘basket’ models, the oil stayed in the pan rather than draining away, so sauces, rice, even casserole-type recipes could be used here.
How we tested air fryers
What is the first thing you think of when you consider air fryers? Chips, of course, so our homemade fries test was crucial.
The key to crisp fries was to peel and soak sweet or normal potatoes in cold water for half an hour to remove starch, before drying thoroughly and tossing in oil.
We used vegetable oil and seasoned the fries when they were being served. We looked at the manuals for each model and followed their directions; all our chosen models produced a crisp chip, some with a bit of adjustment to the times.
Anything from the size of the cut to the variety of potato can make a difference here, so it’s always good to gauge things halfway through the time.
We scored the air fryers using set criteria that included:
Ease of use
No-one wants to resort to a YouTube video to work out how to use a new gadget. We looked for fryers with clear, simple instructions, so we could get them out of the box and cooking our dinner as quickly as possible. Fryers also scored highly if the icons or control buttons were easy to use and intuitive.
Value for money
Some of our cheaper fryers made excellent fries without a big price tag. We looked at whether the fryers were worth the price.
Quality of food
To ensure fairness, we initially cooked chips in every fryer we tested. We looked at how evenly they ‘fried’ and whether they were brown and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
What to consider when buying an air fryer
Think of your individual requirements before investing. You may want to think about the following:
Manual or digital
The simplest air fryers come with manual knobs that you twist to set the time and temperature. You may prefer a digital version, where you press buttons to set this, and can see the remaining time digitally displayed.
Choice of pre-set programmes
Do you like to choose your own temperature and how long to cook things for, or would you prefer to leave all that to the machine? Some of our fryers had up to nine pre-set programmes for popular foods like chips and, bizarrely, shrimps.
It took between 17 and 30 minutes to cook chips in our samples, so this might be a factor. Some models need preheating, but only for a few minutes (much less than an oven).
Always check the size as the capacity varies enormously – important if you’re feeding the masses or just want dinner for one. But bigger isn’t always better. Some take up more space on the kitchen surface and if you’re going to keep it in a cupboard, check the dimensions, some are sizeable beasts.
Some models have a see-through lid so you can glance in and check your chips are browning well. With others, you have to open the basket to check, stopping the machine. The transparent ones tend to be a feature on more expensive machines, so you need to decide how important this is to you.
With most air fryers, you need to shake your chips halfway through cooking (or more often if you want to see how they are getting on). Some fryers have clever devices built in to turn the food for you. Again, these tend to be the more expensive models, but this could a factor to consider if you want to go off and leave your dinner to cook itself.
You’ll need to wash the basket and pan after use. Some need to be hand-washed, while others are dishwasher-proof. (The main parts of the machine should just be wiped with a cloth.)
Air fryers vary hugely in price – our tested models varied from £39.99 to £300.
This review was last updated in August 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.